I've been googling and ran across this little blog post. It has a bit of information stating the the & symbol was at one point the 27th letter in the alphabet.

For years the & symbol (now known as the ampersand) was the final, pronounced “and” but recited with the Latin “per se,” meaning “by itself.” The position and pronunciation eventually ran together, with “X, Y, Z, and per se and” becoming “X, Y, Z, ampersand.”

Why Was Z Removed From The Alphabet (And Then Put Back)?

I have to wonder how could a symbol be in the alphabet? My understanding is that letters represent sounds and the putting the sounds together make words. If & was a letter for the combined sound that the word "and" makes was it ever used in the spelling of a word? Something along the lines of “h&” for hand? Also, why was & in the alphabet and not other symbols like % or #?

I don't think this is a duplicate as I'm not looking for the definition of the & symbol or the story of where it came from but rather its use as a letter in the alphabet and any words that used it in their spelling. The linked blog states it was the 27th letter but gives no examples of word usage.

  • I have always understood the '&' character to be the letters e and t joined together, spelling 'et' in Latin and meaning and. So your explanation intrigues me.
    – Charl E
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 23:14
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    Possible duplicate of & What is the story behind the Ampersand?
    – Graffito
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 23:37
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    This is a matter of definition. There was a recent post about an emoticon being listed in at least one dictionary. Textspeak uses non-classical letters as 'letters'. But I'd say that your article is poor in not addressing your query; who decided on the definition of 'letter'? Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 23:37
  • I have never seen & used as an English "letter", using the normal definition of that word (a symbol used, in a crudely phonetic fashion, to identify the sounds representing a word of the language). And in neither the ASCII nor the EBCDIC computer character sets is & grouped with the alphabetic characters.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 0:23
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    It was a letter when people called it a letter. It isn't a letter now, since people don't call it a letter. End of story.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 0:39

1 Answer 1


According to Wikipedia, the ampersand originated as a ligature in Roman scripts of the letters e an t to represent the Latin word et, meaning and. According to the OED, citing Longman's Magazine (1882), the name ampersand is a corruption of "and per se and," that is, the symbol means "and" all by itself. But it's not a letter and would have carried the sound "et" for Latin speakers just as it has the sound "and" for English speakers, and for both it was a shorthand for the conjunction. Apparently, printers of primers for children often printed the ampersand after zed, which gave rise to the conjecture that the symbol was part of the alphabet. I'd guess its attraction is that let printers represent the alphabet in the three lines of an equal number of symbols.

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